For years I've studied eating disorders and was often shot down for stating that often exercising is a massive indication of an eating disorder. We hear it all the time, exercise is good for you blah blah blah... Most people, trainers, boot camp leaders, and all those aerobics queens, assume that exercise is good for everyone. For a start, how the hell can a group Zumba class be aimed at everyones personal physiology? It can't, and 99% of the people in the classes would probably benefit more from a walk in the park or a little gentle yoga. Training rather than draining should be the name of the game. You can't build a new stronger body without having the correct foundation. Yes there are trainers out there that talk about good nutrition, but they still push you in the gym. Would you build your house without first sorting the foundations? No because the planning inspector would stop proceedings. That is my job, to stop you wasting valuable energy on something which is not helping you reach your goal...good health.
The second scandelous statement that frequently upsets dieters and gym bunnies, is that I think "most people have an eating disorder." I mean who doesn't have issues with food;
- You may be a lifelong calorie counter
- A health food obsessive
- A carb-a-phobic
- An exercise obsessive
- The list is endless...
Before you try and shoot me down, I've been there and tried the lot. Typical anorexia is usually regarded a psychological condition, (I should know I'm doing an MSc Psychology and I keep finding those research papers) that is linked to body image issues triggering the desire to under eat / over exercise.
For years I've lectured about addiction and its links to both exercise and diet, people on a diet can literally crave the miserable feeling of abstinence. It confused me in my early PT days that people would deliberately highjack their progress. Why would they do that? Read on and I'll explain further the chemical reactions that occur to hook us into an addiction.
Years ago I thought that exercise addiction was the perfect habit as I believed "exercise was good for me." Remember, back in 2001 I exercised for 4 hours, every day for 395 days (yes even christmas day) and got nothing but fatigued and frustrated. So I really have been there "feeling the burn", and I'm handily placed to empathise with the problems that stem from an exercise addiction.
Catabolism has been a favourite term of mine since 2001 when I first began studying health and the poor understanding of most gym staff and members.It confused me as to why other staff at my workplace insisted on pushing clients hard, (although that is the media impression of PT) while simultaniously cutting back on energy in. To me it made no sense. Logic (and human physiology) shows us that this is not the way the body works, yes it will survive but trickery is not the way to real results. Catabolism refers to the body breaking down muscle tissue through the use of adrenal hormones that break down our muscle tissue (highly likely) and fat tissue (less likely). These adrenal hormones are called catecholamines. Sounds rather complicated but lets look at what it means;
catecholamine |katəˈkōləˌmēn, -ˈkôlə-|noun Biochemistry
Any of a class of aromatic amines that includes a number of neurotransmitters such as epinephrine and dopamine
epinephrine |ˌepiˈnefrin| noun
Hormone secreted by the adrenal glands, esp. in conditions of stress, increasing rates of blood circulation, breathing, and carbohydrate metabolism and preparing muscles for exertion. Also called adrenaline.
dopamine |ˈdōpəˌmēn| noun
Compound present in the body as a neurotransmitter and a precursor of other substances including epinephrine.[Alternative name: 3,4-dihydroxyphenylethylamine; chem. formula: C 8H 11NO 2.]
So those I've consulted with over the years that have been catabolic are in effect running on adrenaline. Along side this is a natural increase in dopamine (a precursor to adrenaline) and endorphins (a powerful pain suppressor). So the two coupled together mean you get a natural buzz, ask any vegan marathon runner and they'll tell you they feel amazing. Alongside this is the disappearance of pain due to the endorphins. Its no wonder you can get an aerobics teacher that looks like **** yet claims to be pain free and buzzing.
Take a while to think about those times when you've not gone into the gym for a few days, or you've skipped a week. Its not uncommon to hear people saying that they can't wait to go back as they feel bad etc etc. Yes the gym gives you a natural high and magically makes pain disappear but its certainly not healthy nor is it going to help that lean look that you desire.
Sadly the buzz and lack of pain is somewhat addictive and so the obsession with undereating, over exercising begins. Fuelling your body with adrenaline is quite a roller coaster ride as they are opiates, yes thats right you have your own little heroin factory happening right inside your body. Holy **** your a smack head!!
In simple terms the more you supply these chemicals to your brain the more you become hooked on them, you feed the receptor sites, gain more receptor sites and need ever increasing amounts of which ever chemical your hooked on. (see Molecules of Emotion by Candice Pert in my store) If you fail to provide these chemicals (by missing the gym or eating more and avoiding the adrenaline, then you feel sluggish, depressed, in pain, and ready for an argument (if you have the energy).
So, you either starve yourself, over exercise, take drugs or maybe all 3 which causes the rise of adrenaline, endorphins, and dopamine levels that give you that buzz, making you feel fantastic. Do this regularly enough and there my dear Watson is your addiction. When you begin eating normally, get injured and can no longer go to the gym, you miss out on your chemical fix and withdrawal kicks in making you feel terrible much like the heroin addict feels when they cannot get a fix. So despite all the best medical help you continually relapse, even when you don't want to.
The key to recover is knowing what you are dealing with, the above should go someway to helping that become part of your plan. I feel however it is important to very slowly re-feed. Sudden eating will obviously cause an adrenaline (endorphin and dopamine) withdrawal risking failure. Gradually building up meal sizes and timings will allow less harsh withdrawals from the chemicals your craving. I suggest taking it slowly and ensuring mineral content is maximised while building up to "normal eating."